Haiti has more national holidays then I am used to – not that I am complaining. Canada has 9 or 10 depending where you live and if you get Remembrance Day off as a holiday but in Haiti there are at least 15 and that doesn’t include the days given off for Karnival. Like our holidays in North America most of the Haitian holidays are an opportunity for people to have time off from work and for families to get together.
Yesterday was Fète Dieu here in Haiti or as translated, God’s birthday. In the Christian calender it is known as Corpus Christi which rough translated means Body of Christ. Most of the Haitians I work with here are protestants who have a distrust of the catholic church which goes back to the Duvalier years and therefore have little interest in it or it’s feasts so it has been difficult to get an understanding of how this holiday is celebrated.
I went for a run early yesterday morning and I came across a crowd of people gathered around the gate of a house on a pretty busy street. Traffic had been diverted and I was a little worried about what was going on (never sure when a crowd forms).
As I got closer I could hear singing and then a prayer being offered. I waited to see what would happen. After a few minutes as the singing continued (lead by a keyboard player and singer who were supported by a small bank of speakers secured to a Islamic Relief Agency truck complete with a portable generator) the crowd began to move off down a side street.
Now I could see there was a catholic priest, under a canopy being carried by four people, who was carrying a cross and people, young and old, gathered around, some in front and some behind but all singing and moving.
When the crowd moved I could see the front of the drive of the house where the procession had stopped had been transformed into an altar
complete with a carpet, benches, flowers, a kneeling bench, rose pedals on the ground, candles and a large picture of Jesus (a very white Jesus) and as I turned I saw this large dove drawn on the street.
What a wonderful way to celebrate a holiday. To get out of the church and take the message to the streets. To stop traffic and gather and worship. I didn’t understand everything that was said, prayed or sung other than to know they were worshiping a God that means a lot to them.
I am used to holidays filled with as much as you can cram into them and not a lot of church so it was refreshing to see Haitians starting their holiday with God and his people.